NJ Transit wants 2 more years to install emergency brakes
RUTHERFORD — NJ Transit officials said Tuesday they hope to earn a two-year extension of a federally mandated deadline for installing an emergency braking system on their rail lines.
With an initial deadline six months away, NJ Transit basically made a public admission of what many had assumed for months: It will be unable to fully install the system, known as positive train control, by Dec. 31.
Through the first quarter of this year, less than 10 percent of its fleet of 440 locomotives had been equipped, though that number had risen from 35 to 43 by mid-May. The system also must be installed on tracks and radio towers.
In the wake of a 2008 commuter rail crash in California that killed 25 people, U.S. railroads were required to install the system by the end of 2015, but later were given a three-year extension.
They can get an additional two-year extension if they meet certain benchmarks by the end of this year, such as installing all system hardware and completing employee training.
Two months ago, the Federal Railroad Administration sent a letter expressing doubt NJ Transit could even meet the requirements for the extension.
On Tuesday, state Department of Transportation Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the letter "was based on very old data and a very dynamic situation. I think we're fairly close and confident that we will get the alternative schedule approved by FRA."
Gutierrez-Scaccetti said she and NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett would travel to Washington for the next FRA meeting to make their case.
NJ Transit operates the nation's largest statewide public transportation system with more than 200 million passenger trips annually on its trains, buses and light rail. This month it began cutting back some rail service in an attempt to accelerate the installation of positive train control.